NOTE: You can skip to the recipe below and avoid my (sorry) lengthy writings.
Our planet’s plagued by plastic…if you perused my post on beach trash you may have read a couple linked pieces containing info on the Pacific Garbage Patch. Researching this a bit further, I came across the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website. It has some interesting (but alarming) graphs listing MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) and recycling rates.
Regarding plastics, in 2011, 8% of all total plastic products and less than 30% of what we’re most used to (HDPE and PET bottles, think laundry detergent and water bottles, etc) are recycled, a minuscule amount.
Solid waste generation in the US decreased slightly from 2005-2011. Total recycling rates increased slightly by 3%.
If you’re a die-hard recycler, THANK YOU!
But there’s more we can do. Think about not bringing the solid waste into your home in the first place. My heart breaks when I see folks buying huge flats of bottled water, dozens of wee yogurt containers, or those who put a couple small, purchased items in a plastic bag.
I’ve been looking for ways to consume less packaging as a way of reducing what I throw away. Sometimes it takes a little work, might be a little pesky.
I took empty jars into a small, local grocery the other day to put bulk coffee beans in. Asked the cashiers to weight them for a tare value and they were stymied, said they never do that and had no idea how to. Pretty sure they snickered at me as well.
There are other markets here that do (Good Earth Grocery in Fairfax and any Whole Foods). I fill up containers (or paper bags) with stuff like popcorn, sugar, coffee, flour and rice. I’d like to expand that list.
My good friend Anise makes her own yogurt. Interested in eliminating plastic yogurt tubs from my life I’ve been making my own using her recipe. I’m hooked!
- It’s EASY: Total prep time is about 45 minutes (once proficient and you learn the routine) but 30 of those minutes you can walk away from it. I often use that time to do other food prep stuff. The fanciest equipment you need is a meat or candy thermometer.
- It’s CHEAPER: I buy a half-gallon milk per 7-12 or so days. I get a local brand, Strauss Organic in a glass, returnable bottle. I use the Low Fat version at $4.19 per. This makes a little over 50 oz yogurt plus 8 oz for the starter for my next batch. In comparison, 32 oz of Strauss’s Organic yogurt costs $4.99 and Trader Joes brand costs $2.99 per.
My cost is .07 per ounce. Pre-made Strauss is .16 per ounce and Trader Joes is .09 per ounce. Trader Joes is pretty close to what I make it for. Why bother, some may wonder?
- Strauss comes from milk made in my back yard which hasn’t been trucked across the country consuming fuel and resources.
- I don’t throw away ANY plastic in the making or consuming of it.
- I return the glass bottle to the grocery store (or Farmers Market at Strauss’s booth) for re-use.
- I care about what I put in my mouth. Though very lactose intolerant, I can pull off yogurt since the cultures in the yogurt break down the lactose (sugar) in the milk. There’s no fillers, artificial flavors, corn syrups or sugar added. Read a Yoplait label. It’s scary.
- I have the pleasure of creating something with my own hands.
I’ll share the recipe and hope that you consider trying it out. Let me know if you do.
Yogurt, Anise’s Method
NOTE: This is how I make it. See bottom of recipe for thoughts on modifications related to were I’ve placed asterisks *** in the recipe.
- ½ gal organic nonfat milk (I use 1%. You can use skim or whole.)
- approx 2/3 c plain yogurt for starter. After the first batch you don’t need to buy starter.
- vanilla extract (optional)
- Canning jars with lids (I use two 24-oz jars plus one 8-oz jar and an 8oz bowl) The 24 oz jars are filled nearly to the top. ***
- Glass bowl (microwaveable). Must hold the half-gallon milk.
- If bowl has no spout, smaller measuring cup for ladling milk into jars. I use an 8 oz pyrex measuring cup for this. My plastic canning funnel comes in handy for the jar-filling part but isn’t necessary.
- Small bowl to prepare starter in.
- Water-bath for cooling set-up: I use a large, half- filled metal mixing bowl that I set my glass bowl in (see photo below). ***
- Heat source to ferment yogurt in over night or all day. I set my oven to “pre-heat.” When the dinger goes off I turn the oven off and crack open the door for about ten minutes. Then, I turn on the oven light and close the door. ***
Allow about 1 hour to prepare yogurt for fermenting. You can step away from it for over half this time. Either do this in the morning, to ferment all day, or in the evening, to ferment all night. For example: put yogurt “to bed” at 9PM, take out at 8 AM or vice-versa.
- Heat. Pour ½ gal milk into uncovered glass bowl. Microwave on high for 18 minutes. (This brings it up to about 195º F.) Check with thermometer when starting out so you don’t overheat it.
- Hold. Microwave again for 10 minutes at power level 3. (This holding period alters the charges on the protein molecules so they form a gel more easily, creating thicker yogurt; see Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking.)
- Cool. Prepare water bath. See “Gear” section for set-up. Place container of hot milk in water bath. Set timer for 5 minutes. Change water and cool for another 5 minutes. Mine takes only 10 minutes to cool to 95-110 degrees F. Use your thermometer to check temp of milk.
Checking for temperature after the second water bath (note glass milk bowl is resting in ice water bath pictured above). It’s at 100 F. Perfect.
- Assemble jars and starter. During the cooling period, line up your jars and lids. Pour starter yogurt into a small bowl. Spoon a little warm milk over it and stir gently to soften. Stir in vanilla if desired. I use 2-3 tablespoons vanilla. ***
- Remove milk bowl from water bath and wipe the outside with a towel. There may be a film on the surface of the milk. I use a turning spatula to skim this off.
- Add starter from small bowl to milk and stir well, incorporating evenly.
- Carefully pour the inoculated milk into the jars. Be sure to include filling the 8-oz jar about 2/3 full (this will become the starter for the next batch). Cool, eh! Cover jars loosely with lids or with waxed paper held on by rubber bands.
- Place in oven. Let ferment for 8 or 9 hours. I had an extra 4 ounces of milk this batch and put it into that tin-foil covered bowl you see below. I could probably use a jar larger than the 8 oz jar at right, next time.
- After 8-9 hours, check for gel by gently tipping a jar to see if the yogurt is solid and only a bit of clear whey (looks odd, it’s normal) is still liquid on top. Yogurt may appear curdled. Don’t panic! Stir gently with a rubber spatula or spoon before eating and it smooths out. It will smell tangy. Yum!
- Move jars to refrigerator. Tighten lids after chilling. Keeps at least 3 weeks in the fridge.
Thoughts on modifications:
Water Bath: You can also use saucepans, dutch ovens, pressure cooker pots, a canning pot, whatever creates a cool water-filled “nest” for a container holding the half-gallon milk.
Heat source: Some use insulated coolers with heating pads. I tested out my oven method by putting 95 degree water in two canning jars and into the oven, pre-warmed, as described above. I checked the water temp the next AM with a meat thermometer and it still read 90 degrees. You’ll want to find an incubation heat source that maintains a consistent temp of 90 or so degrees. Find the method that works for you.
Vanilla: Oh how I love vanilla. I use the good, real stuff. I put it in things which don’t call for it and increase if in other recipes. Not sure fruit can be added before fermentation.
Containers: Canning Jars I have and sometimes use repurposed jars from spaghetti sauce, etc. I’ve heard of folks using pyrex bowls, larger bowls as the fermenting container. Not sure if it takes longer for a larger volume to ferment.
Eating It: I’m spoiled, I’d much rather eat my home-made yogurt than store bought. I’ll stir in maple syrup, jam, whole fruit and often use it for smoothies and freezer pops (a new found favorite treat of mine). More on pops later.
Greek Yogurt: It’s popular. Really, it’s just yogurt with the liquid whey strained out of it. I haven’t tried this. From what I’ve read, you just place the yogurt on a tea towel/cheesecloth and suspended over a bowl. After a couple hours in the fridge you have thick, creamy Greek yogurt.